Maoist self-proclaimed heads of Tamsaling state comprising 10 Nepal districts close to the China border have banned entry of vehicles into the neighbouring country from India and also banned cinemas from exhibiting Hindi films and songs.
While the leaders claim it is in a bid to save the Nepal film industry from collapsing and their society from veiled insults in Hindi films that show Nepali stereotypes, the mainstream political parties brand such attempts puerile and say Nepal's ties with India run deep and go back to ancient times. In support of their ban on goods being carried from India to Nepal every day, the Maoists say Nepal is self-sufficient to meet the daily need for milk, bananas, fish and vegetables and their import from India will cripple their agricultural growth.
The visit of prime minister Baburam Bhattarai to India has not gone down well with the Maoists who have termed it anti-Nepal. Second in command in Nepal's Maoist party, Mohan Vaidya Kiran formed a party called NKP and announced a Tamsaling state including Chitwan, Makwanpur, Dhading and Kambhrey districts into which Indian vehicles are not being allowed. The party states in a press release that Indian produce and Hindi films have been banned in 10 districts of Nepal to safeguard their agriculture, film industry and society.
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Narayan Sharma Bipin confirmed the barrier saying the ban on Indian vehicles was imposed to restrict transport of agriculture produce from India to Nepal, as it was affecting domestic farmers and market. He also confirmed and defended ban on Hindi films and songs, saying "Different broadcast media based in Chitwan have stopped playing Hindi songs from today." Even sale of Hindi music and movie DVDs is banned.
Asked if the ban applied to all Hindi movies or only those that "insult Nepal and Nepali people, spread hatred and promote vulgarity and cultural anomaly," as mentioned in the statement, CPN-Maoist spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said, "We are against only those Hindi movies that hurt the sentiments of Nepali people or undermine the notion of Nepali-ness. But since we haven't figured out which movies are against Nepal and Nepali people, we will impose a blanket ban on all the Hindi films."
Bhusal added, "We can form an independent mechanism later to censor anti-Nepal Hindi movies after consulting all stakeholders." According to Bhusal, the party aims to prohibit all cable channels from screening "anti-Nepal or vulgar" Hindi movies, songs and programmes in the long run. "But, we won't target the cable channels immediately as we lack an efficient mechanism for censoring television content right now," she said.
Indian vehicles are allowed to ply on Nepal's roads on payment of nominal daily charges at the border check points for which a temporary number plate is issued. The ban on Indian vehicles, Hindi films and songs are part of the 70-point list of demands submitted by the CPN (M) to the PM on September 5.
As for the entry of Indian vehicles into Nepal, the CPN-Maoist has clarified that those Indian vehicles that are already in Nepal will not be obstructed while returning to India.
Although the CPN-Maoist diktat has jolted Nepali cinema hall operators, they are tight-lipped about it. "We'll react only after discussing the matter among ourselves," a cinema exhibitor not willing to be named told TOI.
Some mainstream parties TOI spoke to said the ultra-leftist party's move could be counterproductive and termed the decision childish. CPN (United Marxist-Leninist) leader Bhim Prasad Acharya said it was nothing but CPN-M's puerile aggression against the northern neighbour. The CPN-M has argued that it decided to impose the said ban 'to promote self-reliant national economy, protect employment opportunities for citizens and encourage domestic investment'. But Acharya said there was nothing wrong in movement of Indian and Nepali vehicles across the border is. "The onus to safeguard national interest and sovereignty lies in the hands of national stakeholders. We cannot blame India of damaging our nationality and sovereignty," said Acharya.
General secretary of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party Jitendra Sonal said a serious review of the issue is a must before taking any decision that can have an adverse impact on the country's relations with India. "We have age-old multi-faceted ties with India. Thousands of Nepalis go to India to take a holy dip in the Ganga. Similarly, Indians in large numbers visit Pashupatinath Temple every year. It is unfortunate that the CPN-Maoist has come up with such a decision without taking into account the deep ties between the two countries," said Sonal, adding that such a hasty and imprudent move could bring on unprecedented difficulties for people, especially of the Madhes region. "The CPN-M must keep in mind that Madhesi people will take to the streets if it does not withdraw its decision," said Sonal. Nepali Congress Spokesperson Dilendra Prasad Badu said his party strongly objected to the CPN-M's decision.
When the Maoists were in power, they would talk poison against India but after coming into power and following the visit of Baburam Bhattarai to India, the protest was over. Acting against the liberal attitude of the Maoist Prime Minister Bhattarai the second level leader cum vice president of Maoist party Mohan Vaidh Kiran termed the move of friendship with India anti-Nepali and isolated himself from the original party. Later he formed a different party called N.K.P. Maoist and the party announced an imaginary Tamsaling state. Ten districts fall under this so called state and these states adjoin the China border. Tamsaling state committee has announced the prohibition of entry of Indian vehicles in these districts which are Chitwan, Makwanpur, Dhading and Kambhrey. It has been stated in a press note that the entry of the Indian vehicles in Nepal adversely affects the agriculture sector not only this Nepali film industry is also collapsing due to the screening of Indian movies here. This Maoist party also said in its announcement that the CD's and music cassettes of Indian movies will not be sold here. The screening of Hindi movies has been stopped in 10 districts of Nepal including Makwanpur and Chitwan districts.